“I am sorry for the delay, but I have been very busy lately”.
I assume we have all had this excuse from someone missing a deadline. A deadline he or she voluntarily committed to. It can be a client who promised to come back on a certain issue, a colleague working on a certain task, or a supplier supposed to deliver something.
The excuse is very often delivered when WE follow up.
In such situations, I think most of us make a mental note: “Is this person reliable? Is this a trait or an exception?”
We can all make mistakes. We can all miss a deadline. But we have to proactively manage the situation, stop fooling ourselves, and stop letting other people down. Irrespective of who we made the commitment to. In my opinion, there is no difference in making commitments to a supplier, a LinkedIn connection, your boss, a colleague, an employee, a family member, a client, a friend – they are all human beings and must be treated with equal respect.
The 6 rules
These 6 simple rules can help us maintain and grow our trustworthiness.
- We must immediately decline commitments which are obviously impossible to execute on time or that we have no real intention of executing anyway.
- We must keep track of the commitments we do make (what, when, who).
- We should check our list of commitments regularly.
- We must proactively give notice to those affected as soon as we have to reshuffle our priorities and realize that we will miss a deadline that may be important to someone else.
- We need to take the responsibility. Say: “I am sorry, but I/we have decided to change some of my/our priorities and…”
- We should never use the excuse “Sorry, but I have been so busy lately.” That’s arrogant, disrespectful and insensitive.
Managing our reputation
How do we do that?
- We should stop being “nice” and say no more often.
- We should stop being afraid of speaking our mind.
- We must learn to question and challenge the assignments before making commitments.
- We must ask for time to consider before committing to a task or project if we are in doubt that we can or will deliver.
When we start exercising these four principles we will improve our ability to think on our feet and in the future, we will make time to decline impossible or unimportant commitments, which we have no chance or intention to deliver on.
Keeping track of our commitments
This sounds so obvious, but lots of people do not write down what they commit to doing. If we are very busy, then we must write down what we have promised to other people. (Use one of the many tools available that will synchronize across all your devices and/or are cloud-based.)
Checking our commitments daily
Take a look every morning or evening and see what we have to take action on if anything.
Having a complete list of all our missed commitments will only add to the stress we suffer. We must use tools to notify people of changes in our priorities that are causing delays, or completely cancel commitments as soon as possible and BEFORE the promised deadline.
Taking the responsibility
Don’t blame it on “the system.” We only leave the impression that we are either arrogant, totally out of control or are being remotely controlled by our environment.
“I have been busy”
Time is the most democratic resource we have. 24 hours for everyone, 7 days in a week, 365 days in a year. What we do with that time is our own business. We should not blame a lack of time when we are unable to deliver on our promises. Time to perform a task is something we TAKE and not something we HAVE.
All commitments are not of equal importance. I think we all understand that. Admitting that we have given other commitments a higher priority is the bare truth. Whether the suffering party likes it or not and what she will do about it totally depends on how we treat them.
Trustworthiness is the most crucial character trait in any relationship. All other virtues fade in comparison when we keep failing to deliver on our own commitments. Irrespective of how small they are and to whom we have made them. Take charge and become proactive.
When we deliver on our promises then we stand out from the crowd like a shining star & also when when we look ourselves in the mirror.